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News Overview 2016

Commitment in Times of Change

Statement on the US Presidential Election

Over the last few months in the United States, we – like many others – have sensed continuously increasing polarization, a disappearing capacity for civil discourse, growing distrust of the elite and the media, and growing criticism of globalization. As a Foundation that has been actively working to strengthen transatlantic relations for more than 30 years, these developments – which are also showing themselves in other regions of the world – cause us great concern. In the weeks ahead, we will have to keep a watchful eye on the developments in the United States and what these might mean for transatlantic relations.

The objective of our Foundation’s international and transatlantic work has always been open exchange and improved mutual understanding. We can only achieve these objectives if we include all relevant democratic actors within a society and continue supporting a dialog between all facets of society. To this end, the Robert Bosch Stiftung has – among other things – given more than 500 young American leaders since 1984 the opportunity to spend a year in Germany as Bosch Fellows and brought them together for conversations with German politicians, multipliers, and young executives. This network is indispensable, especially in times of change where there is an increased need for debate. Our partnerships with leading American think tanks, universities, and nonprofit organizations also serve to improve understanding between the United States and Germany or Europe. In the future, we will continue to expand and strengthen our commitment to German-American relations.
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Constanze Stelzenmüller has been working as a Robert Bosch Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution on behalf of the Robert Bosch Stiftung for two years, giving American decision makers an understanding of Germany and its role in Europe.
  • Ms. Stelzenmüller, what explanation can you give for the results of the election in the United States, which many Germans had not expected?

Constanze Stelzenmüller: Donald Trump won the election quite closely – in part with razor-thin majorities in the swing states. Also, he profited from a very low turnout at the polls despite the polarized and agitated public sentiment over the past few months. To put it concretely, only 55 percent of registered voters voted – this was the lowest voter turnout since 1996, which surely was also due to the highly negative reputations of both candidates. His opponent Hillary Clinton was negatively impacted by FBI Director James Comey’s decision, one week prior to the election, to reopen the investigation into Clinton's e-mails – only to announce days later that there was not sufficient evidence to open a new investigation. But it is also true that Clinton was seen by important demographic voter groups – women, people of color, young people – as just another establishment candidate with no real sense for the ills of society.

There was a lot of contention surrounding the question of whether Trump's supporters voted for him for economic reasons or for others. The fact remains that he enjoyed a particularly high level of support among white males without advanced degrees or a college education. But he also got votes from groups that he had previously spoken of with disdain, including people of color, Hispanics, immigrants, and women. This proves that this election was, more than anything else, a protest.

  • What effects do you anticipate on German–American relations?

Numerically speaking, Republicans may have only won by a narrow margin – but they hold all the leverage in terms of power: the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and governors in many states. That means that they can push initiatives through, and their voters will expect them to fulfill all of their campaign promises. Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel have been criticized on multiple occasions by Trump – for the refugee policy, but also as a NATO member that does not do enough for the coalition. The mood in Washington is sure to become more contentious after January 20, 2017. It is also imaginable, however, that President Trump will recognize the benefits of a positive partnership with Berlin.

Projects We Support

For more than thirty years, the Robert Bosch Stiftung has been supporting transatlantic relations. Insight into our work:
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The Bosch-Fellows are young future American leaders who are invited by the Foundation to spend nine months working in business, politics, media, and other social institutions in Germany. As a result, they become ambassadors for Germany in the US.
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The Welcoming Communities Transatlantic Exchange (WCTE) is an opportunity for local integration leaders from the US and Germany to share best-practice approaches to integrating immigrants and refugees into their communities.
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The Transatlantic Strategy Group includes foreign policy and security experts who developed recommendations for a "New Western Ostpolitik", published in May 2016.